10 Tips to Inspire Reluctant Writers

Student with Head on Notebook
Muammer Mujdat Uzel / Getty Images

Some students are prolific wordsmiths. For others, putting pen to paper is akin to medieval torture. Try these tips to inspire your reluctant writer.

1. Read.

It's not uncommon for strong readers to be strong writers because they have a wide vocabulary and have been exposed to proper grammar and spelling and a wide variety of punctuation and writing styles.

Read to your children as often as possible, from bedtime stories to read-aloud books in your homeschool.

Read poetry together and notice its flow and how its lines and verses are arranged on the page.

2. Model.

In the early years, don’t worry about offering too much help with writing. Model good writing for your children. Walk through the process with them and write out your own paper as an example. Write a how-to paragraph describing the steps involved in making their favorite meal, a biography about your favorite celebrity or historical figure, or your own poem.

Seeing the entire process modeled from start to finish, and having your paper as an example can inspire your student and give her a tangible reminder if she gets stuck.

3. Scribe.

For many children, especially those who may have difficulty with the physical act of writing, their reluctance doesn’t stem from a lack of ideas, but from an inability to get their thoughts on paper. It’s not “cheating” to act as their scribe, allowing them to dictate their ideas as you write them out.

If you’d like your student to have practice doing the actual writing, you may wish to have him write the final copy from your transcribed account.

4. Provide writing prompts.

For some reluctant writers, lack of ideas is the problem. Writing prompts and story starters can provide inspiration and open the floodgates of your student’s imagination.

Writing prompts present students with a scenario about which to write. Story starters offer a beginning sentence or phrase on which the student builds. It's also fun to use photos as a writing prompt. You can use photographs or pictures cut from magazines.

5. Create a writing center.

Encourage your reluctant writer by creating an inviting, inspiring space to write. Writing centers can be simple or elaborate, fixed or portable.

When my children were younger, our writing center was located on a folding table in a corner of our finished basement. A mobile writing center may start with a tote bag or a portable file box and file folders to sort papers and supplies or a 3-ring binder with a plastic pencil pouch.

No matter which style you choose, you’ll want to include some basic items in your family’s writing center. Stock your center with:

  • Paper. Offer a variety of paper options such as loose leaf, composition books, spiral notebooks, journals, and printable pages with your kids’ favorite animals or superheroes or themed pages for holidays and special events.
  • A variety of writing utensils. Include pencils, pens, markers, and colored pencils. Make sure a pencil sharpener is nearby. Clickable erasers are great because the small erasers on the top of most pencils don’t seem to last very long. 
  • Helpful resources. Every writing center needs an age-appropriate dictionary and thesaurus. You might also include printables such as a word wall, a list of stronger word choices for commonly used verbs and adverbs, or a list of words that your student may use frequently but find difficult to spell (days of the week or number words for young writers, for example).

Having all your writing supplies in one inviting, easily accessible location can clear some of the hurdles that may be slowing down your reluctant writer.

6. Let them choose.

Most students tend to be less reluctant to write when they have some freedom in what to write. Let your child keep a journal that you don’t check for spelling or grammar errors, but that serves as a space for her to write freely – but only if she enjoys it. Many students don’t enjoy keeping a journal, so don’t force it on your reluctant writer.

Encourage them to write their own stories. Both of my girls grumbled about writing assignments, but freely wrote their own novels with their original story ideas.

Be flexible with their assignments. Our writing curriculum covers a variety of writing types and each includes topic suggestions, but I consider them just that – suggestions. If the assigned topic doesn't appeal to my students, I allow them to choose their own as long as they write the paragraph type we are covering. 

7. Try different types of writing.

Try different types of writing to find something that sparks your student’s interests. Let them write and illustrate a graphic novel or comic strip. Encourage them to write their own fan fiction about a favorite fictional character or try their hand at poetry.

Mix up practical, non-fiction assignments with creative writing activities.

8. Give writing a purpose.

Some children don’t enjoy writing because it doesn’t seem to have a purpose. Let them start a blog or publish a family newsletter. Encourage them to write letters to relatives, friends, or a pen pal.

Allow them to put together a presentation for family and friends. Consider combining writing and technology by encouraging your student to put together a PowerPoint presentation.

Be sure to publish your student’s work. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but after they’ve worked hard, publishing gives writing a sense of purpose. Publishing can be something simple such as:

  • A blog post
  • A neatly written final draft of a letter to send to a friend
  • A homemade book (or purchase blank books in which your students can write and illustrate)
  • Inclusion in a family newsletter

You can also look for options such as an e-book, a writing contest, or publication in a magazine.

9. Brainstorm together.

For students who have trouble getting started, begin by brainstorming together. Help your child by making some suggestions to get the creative juices flowing or building on his ideas to flesh them out – or to narrow down a too-broad topic.

10. Provide a word bank.

A word bank can be a simple idea to spark creative writing. A word bank is a list of related words that the writer should use in his or her paper. For example, a winter word bank might include words such as: frozen, snowman, nippy, frosty, mittens, boots, fireplace, and cocoa.

It's a simple concept, but it may give less enthusiastic writers a place to start and a sense of direction for their work.

You may never have a student who particularly enjoys writing, but these tips can make it more palatable for reluctant writers.